Politicians could face jail time for deliberately submitting false expense claims under a Greens plan to tighten the rules around federal parliamentarian spending.
The tough new measure forms part of the minor party’s efforts to bolster the Turnbull government’s crackdown on entitlements, following a string of expenses scandals in Canberra.
The Greens say the rules giving parliamentarians $32,000 for use on electoral expenses – $46,000 for MPs with large electorates – are too lax and must be tightened.
That allowance, designed to cover the costs of being a local MP, including gifts for community groups, donations and raffle tickets, is given directly to the parliamentarian.
The remaining money is taxable income that is sometimes reportedly treated by politicians as part of their salary.
The Greens want that money paid into a dedicated bank account, with MPs required to submit receipts to a new compliance officer.
Those who misuse the money would have to repay four times the amount.
“We already receive generous salaries in addition to travel allowances and other benefits. There’s absolutely no reason why our $32,000 allowance earmarked for electorate work should be handed over with no oversight,” Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon told The Huffington Post.
“If the [allowance] is supposed to be used for expenses within the electorate, then it shouldn’t be paid into the member’s private bank account and it should be subject to scrutiny.
“Unfortunately that is not the case at the moment and that’s why we need this legislation.”
The Greens would also create a new criminal offence for MPs who deliberately submit false expense claims.
Offending MPs would face 12 months’ jail or a fine of more than $10,000.
“If we leave grey areas like these intact, then we invite the kind of criticism people all across the world are levelling against us – that in the best case scenario we’re out of touch and in the worst we’re more interested in making money than in serving the public,” Ms Rhiannon said.